Across the North – October 2012 [1]

by David Murray on 2 October 2012

in Northern England, Opinion, Windermere, Yorkshire Dales

One, if not the, major theme in the Northern news in recent weeks has been flooding. My schoolboy geography lessons told me that the east of the country was drier than the west because the clouds from the Atlantic dropped most of their rain on the Lake District mountains and the Pennines before arriving on the east coast. Well, this doesn’t seem to have worked recently. Today’s BBC News reports that Flood-hit bridges in North Yorkshire remain closed.

River levels are still high on both sides of the Pennines. Driving along the A66 in the past couple of days I’ve noticed both the Eden and the Derwent very close to the top of their banks. In places drivers are not taking notice of flood warnings, which seems rather more than foolish.

North Yorkshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Iain Spittal said, The last thing I want to happen after the efforts of all the agencies who have worked tirelessly to keep everyone safe this week is for someone to lose their life after ignoring …”
Read More: North Yorks police warning after flood advice ignored [The Northern Echo]

Windermere

Windermere—Bods (Flickr.com)

Changes to the Rules on Windermere

“Changes to the rules which control safety and operational activity on Windermere – England’s largest lake – have been approved by the Government following an extensive period of consultation with lake users. …”
Read More: Changes make lake ‘safer and more enjoyable’

This is very welcome news, especially the clause “allowing exemptions to the overall lake speed limit for special events which are in harmony with the aims of the Windermere Management Strategy and relevant national park policies.” The inability of the Park authority to allow exemptions for exceptional events has been a problematic restriction in the past.

Unintended Consequences of Improvement

In September’s “Across the North” I wrote about a proposed bypass for Bedale. Today we have more about roads and the difficulty of “getting it right”. When a long stretch of the A1 in Yorkshire was upgraded to a six-lane A1(M) I was one of the many frequent road users who said, “Not before time! At last!” This view is not totally shared, though, by the villagers of Masham which has been widely known as a gateway to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

“For decades it has been the picturesque gateway for millions of visitors to the Yorkshire Dales. Countless sightseers en route to the rolling countryside have discovered the gentle charms of Masham with its cobbled tree-dotted Georgian market square and more. …”
Read More: The town that was wiped off the map [Daily Mail]

Let’s hope that some solution is found to redirect visitors to the area through Masham before it is too late to revive its traditional visitor-oriented village economy. As the article continues, ‘The route through Masham and the lower Wensleydale area is about 12 miles long, and other villages such as East Witton could lose out. … We are not talking about a pub and six houses. There are hundreds of businesses involved.’

My question is, why was this unintended but surely predictable consequence not taken account of years ago during the initial planning of the A1 upgrade? See also the Yorkshire Post article.

Masham Town Centre

Masham Town Centre—Effervescing Elephant (Flickr.com)

Village Population Trends

I have several times commented on this blog about problems of villages in the Lake District, especially the disproportionate number of second-homes in some areas and the unafforability of housing for young families. Other village problems, this time in the Dales, are highlighted in a Yorkshire Post article a few days ago. Declining population or imbalanced age mix is already an issue in some places and worse is expected.

“Ryedale and Richmondshire in the stunning Yorkshire Dales are among four of the region’s districts where experts say little or no population growth will happen over the next 25 years raising fresh fears about the sustainability of many tiny villages. …”
Read More: Fears for survival of region’s flatlining villages [Yorkshire Post]

Indeed, the problem is not confined to small villages. As the same article says, “In the Scarborough borough more than 40 per cent of residents will be 65 or over by 2028 – more than twice the national average.”

I have not always been an enthusiast for big strategic plans, but am fast moving toward the conclusion that the county councils and National Park authorities of the Northern counties need to get together to take a coordinated strategic overview of population issues and the factors affecting especially rural areas. Along with the crisis in upland agriculture, which itself includes an escalating problem of age structure, this is becoming a matter of urgency.


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